The Leader Board

Breaking Rules

Nov 30 2012

Senate Democrats Once Blasted The Nuclear Option, 'Breaking The Rules In Order To Change The Senate Rules'


Senior Dem: 'If The Shoe Were On The Other Foot, I Would Not Advocate Breaking Senate Rules'

SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): "The majority has decided the time has come to unravel the Senate's traditional role of debate and that the time has come to break the rules and discard Senate precedent. I am very concerned about this strategy. It is important to remember that once done, once broken, it will be hard to limit and hard to reverse." (Sen. Feinstein, Congressional Record, S.4807, 5/10/05)

  • FEINSTEIN: "I hope Republicans will choose to honor the tradition of our democracy and walk away from this confrontation. I know if the shoe were on the other foot, I would not advocate breaking Senate rules and precedent." (Sen. Feinstein, Congressional Record, S.5724, 5/23/05)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): "…that is what these narrowminded groups are saying. And wildly enough, the majority leader and most--and thank God, not yet all--of his caucus is agreeing. Break the rules, change the whole balance of power and checks and balances in this great Senate and great country…" (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S.5426, 5/18/05)

SEN. TIM JOHNSON (D-SD): "This notion that somehow in the midst of Congress rules that have been in place for generations should be eliminated and the bipartisan mandate they allow for should be eliminated is a step in the wrong direction. One of the consequences of the 60-vote rule is it takes both parties by the scruff of the neck, brings them together and says: You will have to reach across the aisle and cooperate, coordinate with your colleagues from the other political party, whether or not you like it." (Sen. Johnson, Congressional Record, S.4047-8, 4/21/05)

SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): "Yet it looks as though the majority leader, encouraged by the majority, is going to try to change the rules --not according to the Senate rules. In other words, it seems the majority is breaking the rules in order to change the Senate rules. I don't think that is right. I don't think we ought to be changing the rules in the middle of the game. ... I think this starts to verge on the edges of riskiness, if we start operating this Senate under those kind of rules, rules that are breaking the rules in order to change the rules. Another way you could put it is that we talk about the majority is threatening to break the rules to win every time. Is that what the Senate is all about?" (Sen. Nelson, Congressional Record, S.3770, 4/18/05)

  • NELSON: "We must encourage compromise. To change the rules in the middle of the game is bordering on an abuse of power. Surely the Senate can rise above this partisan, highly ideological set of politics and come together for the sake of the Nation." (Sen. Nelson, Congressional Record, S.3770, 4/18/05)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): "…those who think this effort to amend the rules by breaking them, the nuclear option, is something new under the Sun. This is not the first time that it has been tried. Sadly, there have been a few other efforts to amend the rules by fiat, but, and this is the crucial point, the Senate has never done it. Whenever an effort was made to change the rule by fiat, it has been rejected by this body." (Sen. Levin, Congressional Record, S.5759, 5/23/05)

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT): "I urge my colleagues to bear the constancy of change in mind as they consider the proposal to break the rules to change the rules of the Senate. Many in the Senate's current majority seem bent on doing that. They seem quite certain that they shall retain the Senate majority for quite some time thereafter. But as Bertrand Russell said: Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come from people feeling quite certain about something, which, in fact, was false." (Sen. Baucus, Congressional Record, S.5411, 5/18/05)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): "Those who are forcing this nuclear option on the Senate are not just breaking the rules to win, but they want to break the rules to win every time." (Sen. Durbin, Congressional Record, S.3763, 4/15/05)

  • DURBIN: "Today their allies in the Senate are willing to use the nuclear option to destroy the filibuster and to really destroy our system of checks and balances. The obvious question is, in a body of 100 men and women where counting votes is the most important thing: Do they have enough allies? For the sake of our democracy, I pray they do not. We hope there will still be a majority of Senators who love this country, love this Constitution, and love this Senate enough... This should not be an exercise of power by the extreme part of any political party." (Sen. Durbin, Congressional Record, S.5288, 5/17/05)
  • DURBIN: "…they are prepared to push through this unconstitutional and unreasonable change in the Senate rules. It is the first time in the history of the Senate, it is the first time in the history of the United States, that a majority party is breaking the rules of the Senate, to change the rules of the Senate in the middle of the game. I think that is truly unfortunate. I only hope that some Republican Senators, who value their oath of office and who value this institution, will have the same courage the Democratic Party had when it said to President Franklin Roosevelt: You have gone too far. We cannot allow you to impose your political will on the Supreme Court. They stood up to their President and said our first obligation is to the Constitution, our first obligation is to the Senate. We will be Democrats after that, but first we must stand behind the Constitution." (Sen. Durbin, Congressional Record, S.3763, 4/15/05)

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D-IA): "There is no question that by breaking the rules--that is what would happen, breaking the rules--the majority party would gain short-term advantage. … But the long-term destructive consequences triggering the nuclear option would be profound for our system of Government. For more than two centuries, Senate rules and traditions have respected the rights of the minority. That would be destroyed." (Sen. Harkin, Congressional Record, S.5461, 5/19/05)

SEN. PAT LEAHY (D-VT): "We have learned that those who are intent on forcing confrontation, breaking the Senate rules, and undercutting our democratic checks and balances…" (Sen. Leahy, Congressional Record, S.3773, 4/18/05)

  • LEAHY: "This nuclear option, sadly, is an attempt to break the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules of the Senate…" (Sen. Durbin, Congressional Record, S.3765, 4/15/05)
  • LEAHY: "I would like to keep the Senate safe and secure and in a 'nuclear free' zone. … Is this how we want to govern the Senate? Do Republicans want to blatantly break the rules for some kind of a short-term political gain? Just as the Constitution provides in Article V for a method of amendment, so, too, the Senate Rules provide for their own amendment. Sadly, the current crop of zealot partisans who are seeking to limit debate and minority rights in the Senate have no respect for the Senate, its role in our government as a check on the executive or its Rules." (Sen. Leahy, Congressional Record, S.3773-4, 4/18/05)